Title:  Only the Finest
Author:  Carole
Summary:  March 2005 Fazer Challenge:  Write a story featuring 1/2 lb. of chocolate. Extra points for including the words Blue and Fazer.
Main Character(s):  Ezra, Vin, the rest of the Seven
Rating:  Suitable for all ages
Warnings:  None
Spoilers:  None

"Vin's not back yet?" Chris questioned, looking around the room.

"Nope," Buck answered.  "Said he had a few errands to run."

"That was a couple hours ago," JD spoke up, checking his watch.

"Perhaps it's time to search for our lost lamb," Josiah said with a grin, picking up his phone.  Just as he began to dial, the office door opened, and in trooped a group of children, each wearing a visitor's badge and carrying several cardboard cartons.  At the front of the line was Vin Tanner.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" Ezra drawled, leaning back in his chair, "The Pied Piper and his followers?"

"I'd like ya'll t' meet some friends o' mine."  Vin pointed to each child in succession.  "Maria, Arianna, Tatiana, and Jose Gonzalez.  They live in m' 'partment buildin'."

"And to what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?" Ezra asked.

Somehow deciphering Ezra-speak, the pigtailed Maria explained, "We're selling candy for our school."

"They've got, uh," Vin paused to count the cartons,
"seven cases left." 

"What a coincidence," drawled Ezra, "seeing that the very same number of possible purchasers seem to be in this room."

Vin smiled.  "Yeah, ain't it?"

"You wanna buy some candy?" Maria asked, approaching Ezra's desk. 

"I'm afraid not.  You see, I prefer my chocolate to be made with only the finest ingredients, for example, Ghirardelli, Gourmail, Godiva or Fazer Blue."

"Huh?" Maria asked, at a loss this time.

"Chocolate's chocolate," Vin said, peeling the wrapper from a candy bar, taking a quick bite, and licking his fingers with a sigh of pleasure.

"Come on, Ez, don't be such a tight wad," JD said.  

"It is more blessed to give than to receive," Josiah intoned, removing his wallet from his back pocket.

"Here, I'll buy some," JD offered, getting up from his desk.  His offer was quickly echoed by Buck, Nathan, and Chris. 

"It's the world's best chocolate," Jose recited, pointing to the printing on the side of the wrapper. "It comes with almons."

"Almonds," Maria corrected. 

"Yes, yes, I'm sure it is, but-"

"And there's a coupon for Burger King on the inside," Tatiana chimed in.

"For a whole dollar off," added Arianna, her eyes wide with amazement at the thought.

Ezra sighed, fishing into his suit pocket and pulling out a neatly folded dollar bill.  "Here you are.  I'll take one."

"Just one?" Maria asked.   

Vin almost laughed at the look of disappointment aimed in the Southerner's direction.  He exchanged a look with Chris, knowing the soft-hearted-when-it-came-to-kids man wouldn't be able to resist much longer.

"Yes, well..."

"Mr. Vin said you'd be glad to buy some candy, 'cause you know how 'portant books are."

"Books?" Ezra repeated.

"They're sellin' candy bars to help raise money t' buy books fer their school library."  Vin paused, thenadded, "They're not s'pposed to go door to door, and their mama can't buy none 'cause she works hard jist t' put food on th' table, so I said I'd help 'em with th' sellin'."

"Ah."  Ezra's eyes swept over the small group of children, all clamoring for their particular chocolates to be purchased, and smiled, revealing his gold tooth.

"Are you gonna buy some, too?" Maria asked, still waiting at the side of Ezra's desk. 
"Yes, my dear, I believe I am."  Ezra took the proffered box, and examined its contents.  "The world's best chocolate," he read. 

"And a Burger King coupon," Maria reminded him.

"Oh, yes, I'm certain that will come in quite handy the very next time I have a craving for reprocessed-"

"Ezra," Chris warned.

"-a delicious hamburger," Standish finished, tucking the dollar bill back into his pocket and reaching for his wallet.   

"Told ya," Vin said sotto voce to Chris.  Finishing off his candy bar in a few bites, he grinned as the undercover man completed his purchase.

The four children gathered around Vin, waving the money they'd collected.  "Look, Mr. Vin, look!  We can get lots of books now!"

Congratulating the children on their success, Vin thanked his co-workers with a nod and a smile before motioning toward the door.  "Let's git movin'.  I wanna get ya home b'fore your mama has yer dinner ready."

As the children disappeared into the hallway, Ezra looked around the room.  He held up his box, filled with 8 ounce bars of chocolate.  "Would anyone like these truly delectable-"

"I'll take 'em," Vin interrupted, abruptly changing directions in order to grab the carton out of the Southerner's hand.

Ezra held up his hand as Vin once again started for the door.  "What about my money, Mr. Tanner?"

"Money?" Vin questioned, turning around to look at Ezra.

"Money," Ezra repeated.  "For the candy."

"Thought you was givin' 'em to me outta the goodness of yer heart?"

"Hardly," Ezra retorted over the muffled chuckles of his co-workers.

"Well, the way I see it, you asked if anybody wanted the candy bars.  You never said ya was sellin' 'em."

"He's right," JD chimed in, as the other members of Team Seven nodded in agreement.

"Gentlemen," Ezra protested.  "Surely, in the interest of fairness..."

"You may as well give up," Nathan advised.  "Once he's got chocolate in his hands..." 

"But..."  Ezra's voice trailed off as a very contented-looking sniper stuffed half of a chocolate bar into his mouth, tucked two cases of candy under his arm, and headed into the hallway after the children.

"Ba' 'n a fw," the sharpshooter called over his shoulder.

As Chris headed for his office, and Buck, Josiah, Nathan, and JD sat back down at their desks, Ezra shook his head.  Picking up a file folder from his desk, he made sure no one could see the small smile that stole across his face. 

March 2005