Dean/Castiel

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Cas fails to understand personal space in 5.03 Free to Be You and Me
Destiel manip by irensupernatural

History

Dean/Castiel slash fans pair the characters Dean Winchester and Castiel in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. This pairing is most commonly referred to as Destiel.

From Castiel's first appearance in 4.01 Lazarus Rising, fandom saw the on-screen intensity between Dean Winchester and Castiel and took it further. It soon became a very popular pairing, with the first Dean/Castiel LiveJournal community appearing on 19th September 2008, the day after "Lazarus Rising" first aired. Its tagline is "Groped By An Angel". In November 2013 the community had 7116 members.

The first fics posted on Livejournal featuring Dean/Castiel were:

The pairing soon became an OTP and this has led to fierce shipping wars between Destiel fans and those for whom Sam/Dean or Wincest is their OTP.

See also Sam/Castiel or Sassy for information about Sam and Castiel.

Numerous jokes alluding to the bond between Castiel and Dean have been made on the show.

Dean: Don't normally see you off leash. Where's your boss?
Uriel: Castiel? Oh he's, he's not here. You see he has this weakness, he likes you.

Dean and Uriel, 4.10 Heaven and Hell

Cas, not for nothing, but the last time someone looked at me like that...I got laid.

Dean Winchester, 5.18 Point of No Return

Sam: So what, you like him better, or something?
Castiel: Dean and I do share a more profound bond. I wasn't going to mention it.

Sam and Castiel, 6.03 The Third Man

Sorry, you have me confused with the other angel. You know, the one in the dirty trench coat who's in love with you.

Balthazar, 6.17 My Heart Will Go On

Ask him, he was your boyfriend first!

Meg to Dean, 7.23 Survival of the Fittest

There are many visual moments that are taken as Destiel references. In 8.02 What's Up, Tiger Mommy?, when Dean finds Castiel in Purgatory he hugs him, and then strokes his scruffy beard (Source). Later when Castiel returns to Earth in 8.07 A Little Slice of Kevin, he shaves his beard and restores his suits and tie, and cleans his trenchcoat in the process. Fandom was amused that when he appears freshly scrubbed, Dean appears to shift uncomfortably in his seat, and press his hand over his crotch. Watch the "Boner alert" gif here.

In 9.22 Stairway to Heaven, Sam and Castiel think they have found a door to Heaven. When they enter they find a room decorated with kitsch party decorations and a sign from Metatron saying "Welcome to your own personal heaven, Castiel. Good luck finding the real one." At Jus In Bello Italy 2014, Jared reported that originally the writers had indicated that it was supposed to be "a bunch of pictures of Dean. ...I think the writers thought it was funny." He added "But we were like, ‘it IS funny, but we don’t want to give [the audience] the wrong idea that that’s what’s going on....but the idea was that Metatron was messing with Castiel. So we didn’t want to make the episode seem like it was hinting towards something. Because that would have ruined the show to make it about something it wasn’t about. So they just changed it to like a really kitschy, goofy, kind of thing."

There is a canonical deep friendship between the Winchesters, particularly Dean and Castiel. He has been referred to by the boys as family on numerous occasions, and by Dean as both brother and friend.

Sam: I don't understand.

Dean: Me neither.
Sam: I mean, shouldn't it be... Deastiel ?
Dean: Really ? That's your issue with this ?

Sam: (smirks) No, of course it's not my issue. You know... How about Sastiel ? Samstiel ?

Sam Winchester and Dean Winchester, 10.05 Fan Fiction

In the 200th episode 10.05 Fan Fiction, Destiel was mentioned. The girls playing Dean and Castiel in the musical are actually a couple, and Marie tells Dean that the play does "explore the nature of 'Destiel' in Act Two" and adds "You can't spell subtext without s-e-x." At this point Dean (or is it Jensen?) breaks the fourth wall and gives an annoyed look to the viewer. Sam is rather amused by it all and wonders about different ship names for both Dean and Castiel and himself and Cas. While Dean has said throughout the episode that he doesn't agree with Marie's interpretation of the Supernatural story, in his final rallying speech to the cast he reiterates his difference of opinion, but that the show is Marie's interpretation and that everyone should go out there and "kick it in the ass."

  • Destiel - a documentary exploring the appeal and power of the Destiel ship

Destiel is Canon!

Castiel: I know. I know how you see yourself, Dean. You see yourself the same way our enemies see you. You're destructive and you're angry and you're broken. You're -- You're "Daddy's Blunt Instrument." And you think that hate and anger that's -- that's what drives you. That's who you are. It's not. And everyone who knows you sees it. Everything you have ever done, the good and the bad you have done for love. You raised your little brother for love. You fought for this whole world for love. That is who you are. You're the most caring man on Earth. You are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know. You know, ever since we met, ever since I pulled you out of Hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you. I cared about Sam. I cared about Jack. I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean.

Dean: Why does this sound like a goodbye?
Castiel: Because it is. I love you.
Dean: Don't do this, Cas. Cas.

Castiel: Goodbye, Dean.

Castiel and Dean Winchester, 15.18 Despair

In 14.08 Byzantium Jack dies and goes to heaven, but the cosmic entity that inhabits The Empty claims him as he is half-angel. Castiel offers himself up in Jack's stead, agreeing to go with the Entity back to the Empty. The Entity agrees, but tells Castiel it won't be right away. It wants to wait for the day Castiel allows himself to be truly happy, and on that day, the Entity will come and drag him back into the Empty. Castiel accepts the deal and Jack is saved.

Over a year later, Castiel and Dean face off against Death in 15.18 Despair. She gets the upper hand, and they are trapped seemingly with no escape or way of defeating her. Knowing that the entity from the Empty also wants to defeat Death, Castiel then tells Dean of his deal. He reflects that he often thought about what it would be that would make him "truly happy".

"I always wondered since I took that burden, that curse, what it could be. What my true happiness could even look like. I never found an answer. Because the one thing I want...it's something I know I can't have. But I think I know...I think I know now...Happiness isn't in the having. It's in just being...it's in just saying it."

Castiel goes on to tell Dean that he is a selfless and loving and caring human, and that knowing him has changed Cas, has allowed him to care about people and humanity. He concludes with stating "I love you." At this Death breaks down the door, but a portal opens the Entity is able to take Castiel, and Death along with him.

The reaction of the fandom was immense. On Twitter, even in the midst of the third day of vote counting for the US election of 2020, Supernatural, Destiel and #DestielisCanon trended on Twitter. At the same time The Daily Mail and The NY Post published an unconfirmed story that Vladimir Putin was going to step down and #Putin started trending. Somehow the algorithm linked these two events on the list of trending topics, leading to many people confused about the connection!

As always with fandom, the reaction was also complex. Destiel fans were thrilled at Castiel's declaration of love, and saw it as a vindication of their support of the ship over nearly twelve years, often in the face of both denial and hostile opposition. Misha notably went back and "liked" a tweet he had made in October 2013, when he told fans: You're not crazy. for believing in Destiel. (see below for the full story).

At the same time, some fans were perturbed that Dean did not reciprocate the feelings, as this implied Castiel's love had been unrequited for all these years. Many were also upset that following the declaration, Castiel was pulled into the Empty which is where angels go when they die. The scene was felt to be an example of the "Bury Your Gays" narrative trope, in particular the version known as "Out of the Closet, Into the Fire" where a character who declares their sexuality is soon after harmed or dies.

Of course, there were many fans who had a different interpretation of the scene, and saw it as Castiel declaring his platonic love and being happy he could make this sacrifice for Dean. So fans are kind of freaking out over that. And to complicate matters, he dies right after that.

There were also the fans who had long opposed both the ship and even the character of Castiel, who tweeted comments with tags such as #Deadstiel and #Castielisoverparty.

Seven members of the SPN cast attended Darklight Online Con 2020 the weekend after 15.18 Despair aired, including Misha Collins. He discussed the confession scene (and its controversy amongst fans) while explaining to the other cast members who may not have seen the episode yet:

"Castiel tells Dean he loves him and basically makes Destiel canon. So Castiel makes this homosexual declaration of love which is, you know, amazing that that happens, and then he dies right afterwards, which plays into a timeless Hollywood trope of 'kill the gays,' which also then pisses off- Like we give, and then we take away." Mark Sheppard added: "one way or another the election will take of itself, but my god Destiel is forver!

After 15.20 Carry On aired, at panel for the Creation’s Virtual Fan Experiences Misha said:

"I've seen some people complaining about this is playing into the "bury the gays trope" which is an insidious and real trope in film and television, and I don't think that that is what's happening, and I don't think that's what happened with Castiel's ending. First of all he's not dead, he's in Heaven and working to rebuild that Heaven. But also so much good came from that declaration. Because Cas was able to save Dean, by the transitive property, that was essential for saving the world. That declaration ended up literally saving the world. And also it was of Cas' own volition, he wasn't forced to do it, that was his choice and I think that's important too. Maybe I'm naïve but I don't think we're playing into that trope and I'm glad Castiel got to express that. I think that's kind of important. I'm proud that the show did that, frankly." Misha also went on to add that, while he did not wish to speak for Jensen or the character of Dean, he chose to play the scene as if Dean did not share the same feelings."

Jensen would reportedly state at a virtual meet and greet as part of the same event that he did not wish to "over-define" the scene, saying that he was not sure that Castiel as an angel could feel love in the same way as a human, believing the "I love you" could have a multitude of meanings, including "brother in arms".

Misha also said that he knew the confession was coming for more than a year, that Jensen knew about it for three months, and that Jensen had agreed to it. Richard Speight Jr, the director of this episode, said that he, Misha, Jensen, and other crew filmed the confession scene last because of the weight of it. After filming finished Misha, Jensen, Richard and Alex Calvert had boarded a chartered plane to head to Salute to Supernatural Las Vegas 2020. Ten minutes into the flight, one of its engines explode, and they had to turn back to Vancouver. For a few moments they were all afraid they might crash, so it all made for a very emotional night. Misha also told this story, and how he felt filming that last scene, in a CW spot posted to Twitter.

In the Spanish dub of 15.18 Despair, Castiel uses the specifically romantic version of "I love you," with "Te amo." Fans were shocked to hear Dean respond, "Yo a ti, Cas," which is the romantic version of "Me too, Cas" though the English subtitles remained, "Don't do this, Cas." The episode is also titled "La Verdad" (The Truth), not "Despair." In the fan uproar to this revelation, Tumblr was overloaded and briefly went down while #TheySilencedYou trended #1 on Twitter in the U.S. as fans encouraged each other to boycott The CW for presumed censorship of the English version of the show, while "YO A TI CAS" and "DEANCAS" trended internationally. The campaign expanded to note other cases of poor representation on the show notably character like Eileen, Kaia and Charlie.

on 25th November 2020, Misha tweted:

I’m seeing a lot of commentary on the ending of #SPN & the recent Spanish dub & am disheartened to see there are a lot of misconceptions that are making many in our family feel unheard & unsupported, so I’m calling a #SPNFamily meeting to sort a few things out for the record [https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/# There was no conspiracy within the network, staff, or cast of #SPN to minimize or erase representation from the narrative & there was no alternate ending to 15.18. Dean was always too stunned in the moment to reply. (Apparently a rogue translator penned their own dialogue.)
Also, in my opinion Cas doesn't play into the "bury your gays" trope. His declaration of love saves Dean, enabling Sam & Dean to save all of humanity. And Cas doesn’t die! He actually goes on to rebuild heaven!
Was the show perfect? No. Could Cas’ departure have had more resonance in the final episodes? Sure. But I’m confident you guys can sort that part out as your writing, art, and imaginations play the story out past the last frames we filmed.
I’m proud to have spent more than a decade of my life telling a story where good consistently triumphs over evil...And I’m especially proud that my character’s parting message was, “expressing your true self, letting yourself love who you truly want to love, openly & honestly, can literally save the world… For in the end, good things do happen — & they’re worth fighting for.” I love you all.


Articles on the episode:

Nuances in ship naming

The first online communities around the pairing carried the pairing name Dean/Castiel, as it took about a season for the ship name Destiel to universally accepted. In the early days, some fans also used Deastiel or Dastiel. Fans of the ship are sometimes called Destielers.

Overtime, as the shipping wars with Bronly fans intensified, pejoratives were used for the fans such as Destihellers. Fans opposed to the Destiel ship would often post hate on the Destiel tag on Tumblr, which lead some fans to post under the tag deancas instead. This lead to an increased uptake in the use of "DeanCas" as a ship name. DeanCas is also sometimes used to denote platonic, or at least non sexual, fanworks. See also brOTP.

Fans who strongly believed the ship should be canonical as a form of queer representation, were often accused of fetishising queer relationships, and in response they sought to emphasize that they were interested in the whole relationship and not only the sexual aspects. Some of these fans use "DeanCas" as a preference. However many fans see this as reinforcing the opposition to Destiel and making it synonymous only with porn.

In the end, Destiel remained the most popular name for the ship.

Fanfic

Castiel is usually written as topping when he’s being a powerful angel, or as a bottom when the fic focuses on his sexual inexperience, especially losing his virginity to Dean. For more on these roles see Top/Bottom.

Like all slash fictions, stories featuring Dean and Castiel in a relationship may cover any genre or kink including Future Fic, Pre-Series Fic, Crossover, Angst, Deathfic, Crack, Post-Apocalypse, Curtain Fic and Kid Fic. Hurt-Comfort especially involving whumped!Castiel and the appearance of the Magical Healing Cock are especially popular, as are and stories where Castiel discovers human emotions and sexual feelings for the first time. In AU fics, Castiel may be human rather than an angel.

Sometimes the union of Dean and Castiel in Fanfiction results in Mpreg or Eggpreg, as it can be seen as an inter-species union too. On Archive Of Our Own the fic tag is Destiel redirects to Castiel/Dean Winchester, however the tag destiel is often also used with a modifier eg kinky Destiel, domestic Destiel, fluffy Destiel.

Destiel outside the Show

In 2018, Hot Topic marketed a Destiel tee

You know, we know what it is, what’s going on. We don’t talk about it. The actors don’t, Jensen and I don’t. But we’re all perfectly aware of how the relationship is, the writers are completely aware of how it’s being written. It may be unspoken but that doesn’t mean it’s not there or not true.

Misha Collins, Salute to Supernatural Chicago 2012, Meet and Greet

Misha Collins mentioned fanfic and Dean/Castiel slash at several conventions. At the Salute to Supernatural Vancouver 2009, he said he'd heard about "Dean/Castiel/Pie fic". At Collectormania London 2009, he said he'd read some slash fanfic but "stopped at the part where Cas choked... on someone's cock."

Salute to Supernatural Vancouver 2010: Jensen was asked about fan videos depicting Dean and Castiel as lovers, to which he responded with: "Sorry man, not what the show's about."

Salute to Supernatural Toronto 2011: When asked what had happened to Castiel's trench coat, Jared mimed Dean smelling and rubbing it all over himself. Jensen said, "He used it as a pillow — or as kindling. One of the two."

At Comic Con 2012, a fan asked Jensen and Misha what they thought of Destiel. Jensen, thinking the fan said "Deathsteel," asked the panel what it meant:

Ben Edlund: That's some weird shit.
Jensen: Is this something that you created, Ben?
Ben: You don't want any part of that.
Jim Beaver: It's... extreme bromance.
Ben: There's a lot of pictures of Dean in an angelic embrace - and that's being kind of gentle with it.
Misha: Oh that, love that. I mean (pointing to Jensen) you've got pictures like that of us, in an embrace, all over your bedroom.
Ben: Oh there's a van with that airbrushed on the side.
Jensen: Oh yeah it's my conversion van. It's just a nice airbrush on a pillow in the back, there's not much room. Oh and a wolf howling at the moon. It's cool, you'll like it.

Stands Destiel shirt launched during Pride month in June 2019. A portion of proceeds went to the ACLU

As with Wincest, this pairing has been recognized in broader fandom — beyond fanfic authors and readers — including discussions on After Elton. In May 2011, Dean and Castiel won "TV's most romantic couple," beating out Kurt and Blaine from Glee in an online poll run by Spoiler TV. In September 2012, After Elton ran the reader-voted Ultimate Slash Madness Tourney, the final contestants were Destiel and Sterek (aka Derek and Stiles from MTV's Teen Wolf) and the competition was fierce. Misha himself even got in on encouraging the voting, tweeting:

"This homonormative poll makes me sick! No one could seriously think that those Teen Wolf jerks are gayer than us."

At a fan meet and greet at Salute To Supernatural Chicago 2012 Misha said about Dean and Cas' love for each other, "You know, we know what it is, what’s going on. We don’t talk about it. The actors don’t, Jensen and I don’t. But we’re all perfectly aware of how the relationship is, the writers are completely aware of how it’s being written. It may be unspoken but that doesn’t mean it’s not there or not true."

Misha also delights in teasing (or even trolling!) fandom about Destiel. In September 2013, he "posted a video of him "shipping Destiel which consisted of him posting a type of sausage labelled "Diestiel."

In October 2013, WB Exec Chad Kennedy was tweeting with fans, and mentioned that there was no intention of having Dean and Castiel in a relationship, nor had it been pitched to him. Fan outrage in response led Chad to later delete his Twitter. Director Guy Bee added fuel to the fire stating he couldn't see why fans were upset about something that didn't exist. This caused a lot of distress, and a fan tweeted a letter about how they felt to Misha. After getting informed of the context, Misha later simply tweeted: You're not crazy.

At Jus In Bello Italy 2014, Jensen talked about Dean and Castiel's relationship, remarking that he and Misha "don't play it like that" and that fans have been reading too much into the relationship. Watch it here.

At Salute to Supernatural Jacksonville 2017, a fan asked Jensen in the Gold panel, why, if Dean could have a crush "Dr Sexy M.D.", yet Destiel and his (Dean's) bisexuality weren't canon. In response, Jensen said "Destiel doesn't exist." Watch it here.

AtJus in Bello Italy 2019 Misha noted a fan wearing a "Destiel is real" t-shirt. As the crowd applauded, Jensen encouraged them and said "Destiel is real" followed by "It's real? Where is it real?" while Misha interjected "Don't get in a fight with them!" This exchange was variously taken as Jensen a) supporting Destiel and b) denouncing Destiel.

In June 2019, Stands launched a collection for Pride which included a rainbow design saying love, a bracelet charm for the character Charlie, a rainbow pride charm and a Destiel t-shirt. The Destiel shirt showed a cannon (aka canon) with rainbow coloured feathers shooting out of it. The accompanying text read "You’ve been patient and subtle about your desires for years, so we’re taking this matter into our own hands and making Destiel cannon! We’re not sure why you’re so into civil war re-enactments, but we have a feeling the Destiel Cannon shirt will be your OTP (one tee, perfect). It’s emblazoned with a cannon designed in the bluest blue to ever blue and sparkling green, so it’s sure to be right up your alley...The fabulous rainbow feathers are proof that the cannon will go off (but never prematurely)."

"For Love" range from November 2020

In November 2020, following the airing of 15.18 Despair, Stands launched their holiday range which included "for love" Destiel themed items.

Shipping Wars

The emergence of Dean/Castiel as a popular 'ship in 2009, resulted in ongoing skirmishes and battles between supporters of Destiel and Wincest over whether the relationships are supported by canon, which is the most popular and which one is the true OTP in a classic example of Shipping wars.

Queer Baiting

But I don’t like the characterization of teasing around Destiel or around any kind of homoerotic subtext that might appear around the brothers or whatever as queer baiting. I think that that’s really unfair. Because I don’t think that – well, first of all that’s sort of a new and strange term to me, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. I also don’t think that same kind of aspersion would be cast toward someone who is teasing a heterosexual relationship, like the tension that builds between two male and female series regular characters on any given show that’s never consummated. I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s a fair characterization either.

Misha Collins, Source

Many Destiel fans have been passionate in wanting the relationship to become canon. Some argue that the Show's failure to have a same-sex relationship between Dean and Castiel is indicative of the paucity of representation of non-heterosexual relationships on television, and accuse the Show of queer-baiting. This term refers to the concept that a TV show may intentionally imply a homo-erotic tension between two characters with no intention of thematically being queer, purely to attract or satisfy viewers, particularly queer ones.

Many fans saw Castiel's declaration of love in 15.18 Despair as confirmation that the show had been queerbaiting fans - assuming the writers viewed the relationship as, at least on Castiel's side, romantic all along.

See Meta Essays for further discussion on characters' sexuality

Definition and history of Queer Baiting on Fanlore

Meta and Ship Manifestos

2009

2010

  • [tk]

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Further Reading