Commenting has been slow the past, uh, year or two, but I did read this one!
I led myself down a false trail when you mentioned it was a Kelsey story--I sat here saying "The party is safe in the knowledge Kelsey is guarding them? I don't know if he would ever be their first choice..." That was my mistake, not yours.
I think stories like this work a little better when we have slightly more insight into the protagonist character and what sets them apart from the reader's own personal idea of "what <CHARNAME> is or should be." You do accomplish some of that, describing the characters through the PC's eyes. I just felt like I should know another thing or two about this person before the Big Finish.
"To kiss those blue eyes" is an unusual metaphor. Was it intentional?
"earning the gratefulness" -- "earning the gratitude" is what you wanted here.