Oh Locke, that dashing rogue! Rescuing women left and right. When he's off in South Figaro, being the sneaky little bastard he is, he wanders into an imperial jail. If he's dressed as a soldier (because he needs a disguise, see?) then the scene is strangely reminiscent of a certain 1977 sci-fi classic. Because, inside the jail, there is none other than Celes, the Imperial general! She's locked up and in chains, but that's no match for Locke, lock-picker extroardinare. Celes doesn't want to be rescued, she would rather die with honor than risk the life of a rather stupid stranger. Of course, Locke doesn't listen, and sets out to escape. He continues to protect Celes, even though she independent woman who would very much like to think she doesn't need saving. She tries to tell him off a few times, but doesn't succeed. She doesn't fully understand his tenacity, and this makes her more curious.
Celes: Why are you coming with me?
Locke: Well... There're bound to be treasures there. And besides, I've always wanted an inside look at the Empire!
Their next major interlude is the infamous Opera Scene, where Locke thinks up an eaborate plan, substituting Celes for Maria, the diva and latest fascination of Setzer, a wandering gambler with the world's only airship, which is necessary to reach the Imperial captial at Vector. Setzer is planning to abduct Maria after the opera, but if Locke & Co can substitute Celes for Maria, they will all gain access to his air ship. It's a bit convoluted and requires some serious suspension of disbelief, but all in all it seems like a good plan.
That is, until Ultros shows up and tries to exact revenge for a previous encounter with the group. He too plans to kill Celes, but luckily our hero gets wind of the plan and makes hatches a daring rescue plan. He climbs through the rafters and jumps down on the stage, stealing the show (and the girl) from the even more fictional characters.
Impresario: Disaster! If the two heroes are flattened, the opera's over! Then who'll win the girl?
Locke: Neither Draco nor Ralse will save Celes!
Locke: I, Locke, the world's premier adventurer, will save her!
Impresario: Oh boy... What awful acting!
But it's not an act. There's a battle on the stage that the skilled Impresario tries to work deftly into the show. Ultros is, of course, defeated, and Locke saves the day once again.
But then Setzer shows up. He claims Celes as planned, and agrees to join the Returners on one condition- that Celes become his wife. Celes, not one for romance, agrees, much to Locke's dismay.
Locke: Listen to yourself! Celes...you can't become his wife! You just can't!
Of course, Celes adds the element of a gamble to entice Setzer, and using Edgar's double-sided coin ensures that she wins the toss. She avoids marrying Setzer and manages to enlist his aid. Clever girl.
After Celes finds out about Rachel, Locke's illogical need to save her is explained. Her curiosity is satisfied and she begins to see him in a more complicated light. She regrets not trusting him when they first meet, and when they sneak into the Imperial base, she tries to save him, by disappearing with Imperial Guards. However, somewhere along the way, Locke misinterprets her actions and accuses her of being an Imperial spy. They get mad at eachother, Locke hates himself again for not trusting her. Then the world ends, and everything changes.
After the cataclysm, Celes finds herself alone on an island with Cid. FFVI Cid, who is wearing a raincoat. All the time. She's been in a coma for a year, and when she wakes up, she finds that now Cid is sick and needs her care. I always save Cid, but if you don't, you get to see one of the most poignant scenes in the game. Celes, who feels that she is literally alone in the world, decides to take her own life. But something stops her.
A bird appears with a bandana tied around it.
Celes: A bandana??? No... it can't be... Hey, you! Where'd you get this!? Is the person who healed you still alive? Answer me!
The bird flies off.
Celes: He's alive... Locke's still alive!!!
That's right, in a most unlikely of unlikely coincidences, a bird flies by with Locke's bandana at the exact moment Celes is going to kill herself. The fact that Locke might still be out there is what motivates her to continue living, and more importantly, escape the island. Locke becomes her inspiration for living, not necessarily in a romantic manner but in an even deeper sense. Just as the thoguht of saving Rachel drives him, the thought of finding Locke drives her.
Immediately after Locke and Celes are reunited, Locke manages to revive Rachel for long enough to achieve a kind of closure. Celes is there to comfort him, to offer hope. Locke finally feels healed, and is ready to move on- and there's Celes, waiting for him. The very end of the game shows Locke and Celes escaping from Kefka's Tower, which is falling to rubble because that's what always happens. Celes drops Locke's bandana, which she has been keeping all this time. As she runs back to retrieve it, the rock she is standing on caves in, much like what happened to Rachel. Except this time, Locke saves the girl.
Locke: I'll never let go. I promise.
After Celes is saved and on solid ground again, Locke can't believe she risked her life for a piece of cloth.
You know, I do think that Locke actually prefers strong women, but it doesn't come across in how he deals with them in the course of the game. Celes has become too brash and independent, and Locke's curious protective insistance makes her think twice. She has never had anyone care about her in that way, and his chivalry both unnevers her and arouses her interest. She treats Locke differently than the other characters, and early on Edgar sees a hint of her attraction and tries to warn her off.
The first line is the US translation, the second is a fan-translation.
Edgar: Locke has a complicated past. I wouldn't want you to think he's fallen for you or something.
Edgar: Locke's a man with a lot of past. You really shouldn't mistake his defending you back there as something like love and fall for him.
I think Edgar, for all his flirting, has a keen intelligence and a diplomatic sense of people's emotions. He senses Celes' interest, whether it is at time romantic or just on the verge of becoming that way, and tells her off, knowing that Locke is still very much controlled by Rachel. The game's true love triangle is the one between Locke and Celes and the dead lover Locke won't let himself leave. But the fact that Celes exists, the mere idea that there is life after love, is enough to get him to begin questioning himself. And that Celes herself seems and endless source of questions-- well, it's been a long time and he needs to do some questionings.
In the world we live in, the necrophiliac and emotionally-stunted child-soldier make an odd couple, but in Final Fantasy terms dashing rogue and ice princess make a perfect fit. But the way their relationship develops is more than just typecasting. Locke's stubborn insistance on protecting her allows Celes to see herself as a human being, a woman- and not the genetically engineered tool of the Empire. And Celes' stubborn insistance on not being saved begins to put the cracks in his Lancelot complex. In each other they see themselves redeemed, and there's more than a little poetry there.
But maybe I'm just a love-starved twit.