(Spoilers: Up to 2x09, "What Kate Did")
"Who died and made you boss?"
The tequila burned its way down Jack's throat as he looked sharply at the woman seated in the sand beside him. "Excuse me?"
"I was just thinking about that phrase," Ana-Lucia continued. "People say it all the time. One plane crash, and all of the sudden it's literal."
"Guess you're right. I hadn't thought about it that way."
"Really," she said flatly.
Jack turned back to the ocean. "A lot of people died that day."
"So, who made you boss?"
"Locke," he finally answered. "Locke made me boss. He said they all treated me like a leader, so I might as well face it. Step up."
Ana-Lucia nodded, squinting at the gray sky. "Back on our side, it was crazy at first. Just trying to get everyone out of the water was ... it was a mess. We were a mess."
"People everywhere, screaming, wandering around, bleeding."
"Pretty much. We were basically sleepwalking that first day. Then They came."
"Michael said They took some people that night. I can't imagine." The image of Charlie hanging from the tree suddenly popped into his brain. He blinked several times, but that one was never easy to shake.
Ana watched the waves sliding over each other into the sand. "We didn't even know their names. Probably dead right now, and we couldn't even mourn them."
"It's not your fault, Ana."
"Doesn't seem to make a difference." She swallowed another mouthful of liquor. "They just ... started coming to me. I'm not a doctor. Not a priest. I don't know anything about surviving in a jungle. Why? Why was it on me?"
"They needed someone. Someone who wasn't paralyzed with fear."
"You think I wasn't scared?"
"I think you weren't paralyzed."
She said nothing for a moment, just picked up the knife she'd been using on the branches before he got there. She ran her thumb along the edge of the blade. "This guy, Donald, broke his leg pretty bad. I could see the bone. Libby set it for him, but it got infected, and he died." She cleared her throat. "What was I supposed to do about that?"
"What did you do?"
She shrugged. "Buried him. Next to all the others."
"Sometimes that's all there is." They had their own graveyard on this side. A tiny one that was still too large.
"After the first couple went, I started wishing they'd die faster." He looked at her in surprise, but she had lowered her gaze. "Every hour, every day they were lying there bleeding, they became more real. Dead people waiting to die. At first I felt bad for not knowing the names of the dead. Then I learned. It's worse the other way."
"You did your best, Ana-Lucia. You were up against an impossible task."
"So were you. How's the survival rate on your side of the island? I'm at 17 myself."
He shook his head. "It's not the same thing. You were being hunted. You didn't have access to the same supplies we did."
She smiled faintly at him. "You're still doing it."
"Leading. You're leading me."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"Keep them sane. Encourage them. Tell them it's going to be okay." She listed them dully, as if out of a textbook.
"It's what I do." He met her gaze. "What I have to do."
She considered him for a moment. "'Live together, die alone' - that's yours, right?"
"I said it, if that's what you mean. I believe it."
He frowned. "Excuse me?"
"You're It. I'm done."
"Jack," she said simply. "I did my time. It wasn't enough. We'll live together ... under you."
"You didn't fail." Her eyes snapped back to his. "Don't disappear. People still need you."
"Nobody needs me, Jack." She tipped the bottle and swallowed the last of the tequila.
"Thanks for the drink." She rose to her feet and brushed the sand from her jeans. "I'll see you around."
He sat helplessly as she walked away. Half-finished stakes, foundations for some future shelter, lay in the sand behind her.