Title: The Promise of Ambition

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the franchise, merely the situations I put them in and such.

Summary: Norrington's finally got Jack back to the gallows. So why is he unsure of going through with it? Where does he truly lie?

Notes: This would take place after the third film. Mild DMC spoilers.

Comments are greatly welcomed and highly appreciated. :D Thanks for reading!

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The simple sound of two drums was all it took for everyone in the town to be alerted that a person's life was about to end. There were the usual suspects who showed up to everyhanging, yet there were three of the crowd unaccounted for. No doubt they were safely put under house arrest for this particular part of the day; watched by the most prominent soldiers of the fort, therefore there was no chance of escaping to help this time.

He had condemned people to the noose many a time before and had always watched with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment lingering in his mind. But he was troubled and somewhat annoyed to discover he felt a sickening remorse well inside him for the first time as he stood onthe sidelines of the area, looking upon the dreary gallows.

The convicted man's time on land had run out as well. His debt at sea had been squared with the Flying Dutchman's captain, but he owed another one to the Crown that had been long overdue.

James Norrington would see to it that it was paid for in full without any mishaps this time.

As the pirate's crimes were read aloud, the redeemed Commodore and the East India Trading Company's Lord Beckett watched on in silence side by side. Beckett had a smart smirk prying at the edges of his lips, a terrible fire blazing in his eyes as he waited impatiently. Norrington's expression was indecipherable. He attempted to conceal the conflicting emotions battling within him. Why did he have to second-guess himself now? Right at this moment? He told himself he should be wholly proud, feeling not a shred of regret at placing Jack Sparrow on the brink of death. So why didn't he feel proud?

He swallowed hard when the loop was put around Jack's neck, and his rational thoughts wentfrom rampant to non-existent as the pirate's wearied amber eyes stared directly into his own. He shut them as he remembered their last conversation aboard one of Beckett's ships after capturing him.

"I see your dark ambition paid off, Commodore," Jack said with a devious smile. "You really are a pirate."

"You speak nonsense, Mr. Sparrow."

"Do I? You saw fit to steal Jones' heart for your own personal gain, not worrying about the consequences or expenses of others. You have all the makings of becoming a full-blown pirate."

"I did not steal it," Norrington said firmly, yet lost his sternness somewhat as he continued. "I merely borrowed it, if you will, to re-claim the life I sorely lost because of you."

Jack grinned madly and gazed directly into the uniformed man's eyes. "Pirate. Just like your lost bonnie-lass to ol' what's his face. But don't you worry, mate. I'll keep it a secret."

"There's nothing to be kept a secret because there is nothing for me to hide."

"You'll ditch that terrible get-up you call a soldier's outfit and settle on me turf. You want to condemn me, but not for the reasons they all believe, aye?"

"Do tell."

"I gather that perhaps you don't want any competition as the best pirate threat in the Caribbean. You'll jump ship after I'm blowing in the wind for good. Face it, you've tasted the freedom of being a pirate once, you won't be able to resist living that way again for long. You'll see."

A gold tooth gleamed as Jack Sparrow gave a wide smile to Norrington. Norrington's stomach churned. He sighed and prepared himself as the drum roll started. Jack turned to face forward and let out a deep breath himself. His eyes closed as he waited for the platform to drop from beneath him.

When the lever was pulled, Norrington stared indifferently as Jack began to struggle. He suddenly turned and walked away from the spectacle as guilt swept over him. As he made for his office, his garb all at once seemed too confining. He removed his hat and wig within the privacy of the room. It was not enough. He took off the warm overcoat and felt a bit more liberated. His reflection caught his attention in the mirror on the opposite wall. Moving to it, he disliked what he saw: a man with no purpose but to serve, no life to share with someone else, no love or passion for anything.

He sat down and let his thoughts engulf him. The hours passed by, bringing the darkness of night. He lit candles about the area and settled in his chair once more.

"There is no way Sparrow is right," he muttered.

He became unsettled, and so got up and went to the window. Behind him, a candle abruptly went out near the doorway. Two more stopped giving their light, then two more. Norrington soon became aware that the room was now dark and turned around, but stopped from going further and gasped. In front of him, re-lighting a candle clutched in his hand, Jack Sparrow gazed upon him with that familiar, clever grin. They stood in silence until Jack finally spoke in a low, charming tone.

"Hello, pirate."