No one on the Black Pearl knew when the cat had arrived. One day, it was there sitting on the railing in front of the wheel, licking at its grey and black fur, without a care in the world. Once it realized it had the attention of nearly the entire crew, it stretched out and casually began sharpening its claws on the railing, leaving small gouges in the wood.
Captain Sparrow winced as if the scratches were going into his own body. "Get that, that… thing off me ship!"
"But Captain," said Gibbs. "We are havin' a rat problem…" He trailed off at the look on the Captain's face. "Aye, sir."
Jack Sparrow stalked off, muttering about furry hell beasts and Gibbs was left looking at the grey faced cat. It stared back at him with sky blue eyes narrowed into slits. Gibbs gulped. "S'bad luck," he said softly to himself, but that wasn't really true. Cats were always good luck for sailors. They kept the rats down which meant the sailors could eat and on leaner voyages, they provided eating of another form.
He reached out cautiously, expecting the cat to claw at him, instead it gave the rest of the lingering crew a haughty stare before leaning into his hand to be stroked. Gibbs scratched it around the ears and under the chin, then picked it up. It went limp and allowed itself to be handled without a care in the world that the person holding it was steeling himself to throw the cat in the drink. At least, he was about to throw it in the drink, until he discovered it had six toes on each foot…
Jack was staring at a map in his cabin, not really seeing it. Instead he was considering how long it would be seemly for him to wait before he went out and reclaimed the wheel of the Pearl from whoever had her this time. If asked, Jack Sparrow would deny any addiction to being at the helm of the Pearl, but if you asked his crew, they would say that there were distinct indents on the wood of the wheel from him steering it so often.
"Captain!" yelled Gibbs as he burst into the room, that grey demon from hell held carefully in his arms. "We can't kill it, sir."
Jack regarded the cat quizzically. "Did it get its paws on some Aztec treasure, then?"
Gibbs looked confused.
Jack sighed. "Is. It. Cursed?" he asked carefully.
Gibbs face lit up with understanding. "No, sir, but we can't be killin' it all the same. It's a lucky cat. Bad luck to be killin' a lucky cat. I'd sooner shoot me own mum."
"Yes, but your mum's not on the ship," pointed out Jack. He glared at the cat in Gibbs' arms as it began to squirm. Gibbs tried to hold onto it, but with a judicious use of claw it broke free and leaped nimbly to the deck to explore Jack's cabin. Both of the men watched as it rubbed itself against chairs, sniffed and even nibbled experimentally on Jack's boots (Jack's cry of dismay none withstanding) and then leapt onto Jack's bed to curl itself into a ball and go to sleep.
Jack's eyes were wide with anger and disbelief. "First it hurt me ship, then it takes me bed, now you're goin' to mutiny over it. Will you name it Captain?"
For once, Gibbs decided to try out his sense of humour. "No, sir. None of us speak cat, you see." The glare Jack sent his way made him resolve never to try humour again. He hung his head. "Sorry, sir, but the cat's got six toes on each foot. That's mighty lucky and the Black Pearl can always use a little extra luck. The crew don't mind it, and we'll keep it out of your cabin and teach it not to sharpen its claws." Where Jack could see it, Gibbs added privately to himself. The cat would be no good as pest control if its claws weren't sharp. The captain still didn't look convinced though. "AnaMaria liked it," Gibbs added on hopefully. "She was lookin' angry at the idea of killin' it."
That caught Jack's attention. "Slappin' angry? Punchin' angry? Or keelhaulin' angry?"
Never let it be said that Joshamee Gibbs wasn't a good liar. "Somewhere between punchin' an' keelhaulin', sir."
Jack scowled and stared the cat sleeping on his bed. He owned the Pearl, not that furry usurper that was making itself at home. He walked over and it opened one eye to watch him. "I'm the Captain," he declared. "As a member of my crew I expect you to stick to the code, 'cepting when you don't, and obey me at all times, 'cept when I'm being daft." Jack stopped then, realizing he was probably being more truthful then the situation warranted. He leant in and hissed, "It's my ship."
The cat regarded him for a moment, then leapt off the bed and wandered out the door.
Jack tried to ignore the feeling that he'd just been dismissed and noticed Gibbs watching him quizzically. "Get back to work, you dog!"
Gibbs jumped to do so, and Jack followed him out, his hands itching to get on the wheel again.
"What will we call it?" asked one of the crew. Somehow the naming of the cat had become a diplomatic process. Jack was studiously trying to ignore the conversation from his post at the helm.
"Shiver me timbers," called out Cotton's parrot.
"That's a bit long ain't it?"
"How about Diamond?" suggested Marty.
"But it doesn't look like a diamond."
"We could name it Jack," suggested AnaMaria.
"The poor cat," said one of the crew too quickly for Jack to identify who it was. He gritted his teeth.
And so the naming went on, only by evening the crew had given up on deciding a name that everyone could agree on (they were pirates after all) and were calling it The Cat until a name suggested itself.
The Cat did not, as Gibbs had promised, stay out of Jack's cabin. In fact, it spent so much time in there that Jack sometimes wondered when it found time to catch the rats. It also scratched up any available surface, most particularly Jack's chair and table legs. The Cat did eventually earn itself a name when one morning Jack found the cat chewing happily on the edge of his new boots. He picked up the cat and threw it out the door along with the boot, yelling at it to stay off his bootstraps.
And so Bootstraps officially joined the crew. And if Jack did find a strange sort of comfort in the cat's purring as it nestled against him, and occasionally on top of him, at night, he certainly didn't tell anyone.