It is the author's first fanfiction, and is sort of "important" among that author's fanfics because it introduces the OC Zack who features in Prerugrats and the majority of the author's other Rugrats fanfictions and gets alluded to in many other of the author's fanfics (a fanfiction where the babies answer readers' questions has one of them be "What was worst about the gray plague?" for example.)
And while the author is not afraid to occasionally write about sickness (she has a headcanon that Tommy had food poisoning while he said, "no" for the first time) or dark topics (after all, Prerugrats had a Tragic Stillbirth), it is probably the darkest of that author's stories due to focusing on Tommy having a serious flu. In fact, the initial version of it was so dark that the author decided she had to rewrite the last chapter.
The author wrote it because, while in university, she caught several colds, which weren't serious, but they gave her nightmares about Tommy dying from a disease, so she wrote the fic to reassure herself.
The plot can be summarized thusly: The Finsters are visiting Chas's parents, the DeVilles are staying with Betty's brother Freddy, Tommy, Dil and his parents are at the beach, and Angelica and her parents are on a business trip, when a broadcast comes on about a serious flu epidemic called the Gray Plague that can be fatal to small children. Tommy meets a sickly, homeless boy named Chongo and the kids have to go home early to get vaccinated.
However, there is a limited amount of shots and Tommy ends up not getting vaccinated.
The next day, the kids visit with Tommy and Taffy takes them to the park, but Tommy seems out of sorts. He gets pushed into mud by a mean boy and they go to the Finsters' early, where Angelica throws the Reptar doll onto the roof of the tree house. While trying to fetch the toy, Tommy falls and is knocked out, then the adults discover that he is sick. Stu and Didi take their boys home, but at night, he has trouble breathing and is taken to hospital where they discover that Tommy does have the gray plague.
The babies look for Tommy and find that he's in the hospital. They make get well cards and sneak into an ambulance to visit Tommy. They reach the hospital and try unsuccessfully to take a weak, sickly Tommy home.
Tommy gets invited to Chuckie's third birthday party and takes medicine, but in a nightmare, an anthropomorphic version of the plague tells him that the medicine has horrible side effects.
Turns out that the side effects are just a bit of sleepiness and irritability and Tommy gets his appetite back and loses most of his cough, so he is able to go to the birthday party but must keep taking the medicine. Before the party, they meet a cheerful boy named Zachary, aka Zack, and his aunty Celeste. Zack likes Chuckie and Kimi but thinks Tommy is "depressed" (due to the medicine's effects making him gloomy) and Phil and Lil are "disgusting". He shows up at the party, but Tommy is asleep and can't go, so Zack asks to be Chuckie's new best friend.
Then, Betty and Kira argue. Phil and Lil tell Tommy this and think this means that the Finsters aren't their friends anymore, which makes Tommy cry but the adults think it's just the medicine. They then go to Reptar live but Tommy has trouble bonding with Zack and misses it due to falling asleep. He decides he's had enough of being out of sorts and wants to stop taking medicine (which is also partly due to a dream he had where Reptar told him not to take it).
Then, Tommy gets mad and argues with the babies and has a dream that changes his mind about taking the medicine but pours it down the sink. The next day, Tommy makes up with Chuckie and Kimi and makes friends with Zack and Tommy and Chuckie go to the basement to retrieve the screwdriver while Kimi, Angelica and Zack play fashion show, but Tommy gets sick again. Stu tries to help but accidentally drops Dil and makes him bleed. This makes Didi mad at Stu and they decide to get a divorce. Dil gets stitches and he is fortunately not brain-damaged, but Tommy's only chance is to wait for the vaccinations again.
Didi lives in an apartment with her sons, Phil and Lil turn two, Betty wants Stu and Didi to be back together and she and Kira have made up, but Tommy has lost his spirit of adventure. Tommy turns two and goes to the movies and then he gets a vaccination, goes back to normal and his parents get back together.
Rugrats and the Gray Plague provides examples of
- Afraid of Needles: Chuckie mentions being afraid of shots because they sting.
- Ambiguously Absent Parent: Chongo's dad is not seen and we don't know why.
- Ambiguous Situation:
- When Angelica turned the fan on, was she really trying to destroy the get well cards or was she just stirring the pot? However, it is very doubtful that, if she was trying to destroy the get well cards, it was because she didn't want Tommy to get better. She may be a brat, but she's not evil.
- Did Tommy really catch the gray plague from Chongo like he thought or did Chongo just have a cold or asthma?
- Author Avatar: The author based Aunty Celeste on herself.
- Baby Language: The babies have their own language, and when Chuckie turns three he can speak to both babies and adults.
- Babysitting Episode: In the third chapter, the kids are babysat by the Pickleses, then Taffy, then the Finsters, then Dil is babysat by the DeVilles.
- Baby Talk: The kids say babyish words like "prettyful".
- Beach Episode: In the first chapter, Tommy, Dil and their parents go to the beach with Lou and Lulu.
- Best Friend: Chuckie and Tommy are best friends. Zack tries to be Chuckie's new best friend, but he turns into just one of his friends, not like Tommy.
- Birthday Episode: Kimi turns two, and later on, Chuckie turns three, then the twins and Tommy turn two.
- Bratty Half-Pint: Angelica is her normal grumpy self.
- Can't Get Away with Nuthin': If Tommy stops taking his medicine, there's a chance of the gray plague coming back—-it does.
- Cheerful Child: Kimi remains optimistic even when the going gets tough. Tommy is gloomy, but it's frequently mentioned that this is only because of the plague and he is generally a cheerful boy. Zack is also always willing to play.
- Continuity Nod:
- Chuckie refers to Phil and Lil's uncle Freddy as "that guy who claimed brothers and sisters are monsters". This references the episode "Brothers are Monsters", although technically it was Stu who said that about brothers, and both of them were talking about specifically older siblings.
- Tommy remembers learning about his and Chuckie's family trees. This happened in the episode "The Family Tree".
- Charlotte mentions Stu and Didi bringing Angelica to the Grand Canyon, which happened in the episode "The Grand Canyon".
- Didi's reply includes mentioning Angelica demanding chocolate pudding at three in the morning. This references "Angelica Breaks a Leg".
- The fanfic is set directly after "Kimi Takes the Cake".
- Charlotte mentions that she can't believe they let Miss Carol back on TV. Miss Carol was fired from her show in "The Word of the Day" for swearing onscreen.
- Chuckie mentions getting lost in the forest. This happened in the movie.
- Susie mentions getting her tonsils out, which happened in "No Place Like Home".
- Continuation: This fic takes off where "Kimi Takes the Cake" left off.
- Dark Fic: Rugrats is a cheerful, comedic show but this fic deals with a baby getting a serious disease.
- The Diaper Change: In the third chapter, Taffy changes the diapers of Kimi, Phil and Lil.
- Disappeared Dad: We never see Chongo's dad.
- Does Not Like Spam: Tommy doesn't like grape juice.
- Downer Ending: Subverted. The author was going to end it with Stu and Didi divorced, but she rewrote it.
- Eat Dirt, Cheap: Phil apparently eats dirt with his own spit in it a lot but is disgusted by the idea of eating dirt with Dil's spit in it.
- Empathy Doll Shot: Played with. When Chuckie sees Tommy's plastic screwdriver lying abandoned, he thinks that means Tommy died or disappeared or whatever, but really Tommy's still around.
- Extreme Omnivore: Phil and Lil eat dirt, but Phil will only eat dirt with his own spit in it, not Dil's. Dil also tries to eat a crayon.
- Fainting: When Tommy gets the gray plague, he passes out from lack of oxygen.
- Feud Episode: Zigzagged. Tommy and Chuckie don't so much stop being friends so much as have a misunderstanding that makes them think they're not friends. Betty and Kira do have a little spat but they get over it.
- Filthy Fun: Phil and Lil mention that mud makes them happy when they are trying to cheer Dil up. Tommy's mentioned to like mud too, but not as much as the twins.
- Genki Girl: Kimi is very perky, she can even do somersaults.
- Green Around the Gills: Apparently, Tommy's face turns a "funny green colour" as one of his first symptoms.
- Happy Ending: Even though it was a Dark Fic, it ended with Tommy getting better and the parents making up.
- How Unscientific!: One girl is telekinetic in a mostly-realistic fanfiction.
- I Don't Think That's Such a Good Idea: Chuckie once says that he doesn't think the shots are such a good idea.
- In-Series Nickname:
- Phil and Lil's real names are Philip and Lillian.
- Angelica calls Tommy "Melon Head" and Dil "Drool Boy".
- Nurse Happy calls Francine "Commander Nora Nebulon".
- Zachary gets called Zack.
- Insomnia Episode: Exaggerated for when Stu and Didi are kept awake taking Tommy to the hospital, Dil and Chuckie are kept awake worrying about Tommy, and Phil and Lil are kept awake by Dil's crying.
- Late-Arrival Spoiler: Other fanfics mention that Tommy gets the gray plague.
- Little Professor Dialogue: Subverted with Chuckie, who once says the word "attempt" in a sentence, but follows it up with "losted".
- Lovable Coward: Chuckie is still sweet and nervy like usual.
- The Medic: Several doctors and nurses, and one telekinetic girl who vaccinates Dil despite not having a medical degree.
- Mind over Matter: The nurse's little sister Francine is said to be able to lift things with her "brain waves".
- Mister Strangenoun: One of the nurses is called Nurse Happy.
- Nephewism: Aunty Celeste is Zack's primary caregiver, unlike the real world.
- Nightmare Sequence: While sick, Tommy has recurring nightmares about an anthropomorphic gray plague.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Kimi is concerned when the normally fearless Tommy is scared.
- Opinion-Changing Dream: Tommy has two: one which convinces him not to take his medicine and another that convinces him to take his medicine.
- Original Character: This fanfiction introduces the Original Characters Zack and his auntie Celeste, and also the ragtag group of nurses and Chongo and his mother.
- Out-of-Character Moment: Stu punching Drew in the face and Drew giving up on him.
- The Pollyanna: Kimi stays positive even when Tommy is at the hospital.
- Psychic Dreams for Everyone: Subverted. The anthropomorphic gray plague in Tommy's dreams claims he will die and although some of her predictions sort of come true, Tommy doesn't die.
- Red Is Violent: The mean boy who pushes Tommy into mud wears a red shirt.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Angelica correctly predicts that Tommy will get the gray plague, but says it's because it's more likely in bald babies.
- Say My Name: On Tommy's first night of his illness, Dil calls his name.
- Shout-Out: One of the doctors calls herself Dr. McStuffins and when Didi says that she thought she only worked on toys, the doctor says that Didi is thinking of her daughter, who they call "Doc".
- Sibling Rivalry: Downplayed. While the siblings have tiffs, they also have a very strong bond.
- Sick Episode: The main plot is about Tommy getting a serious flu.
- Sickly Green Glow: In Tommy's first nightmare, he almost drowns in green liquid.
- Sleepwalking: Apparently, Stu sleepwalks through Betty's yard when Didi isn't living with him.
- Soup Is Medicine: Tommy is fed soup while he has the flu.
- Speak in Unison: Chuckie and Kimi shout, "Yay!" in unison when they hear Tommy is coming home.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Betty is called "Beddy", Kimi "Kimmi", Miss Carol "Miss Carrolle", Wawa "WahWah" and Shirley "Shirly" or "Sherly".
- Straying Baby: In the fourth chapter, the babies sneak off to find Tommy twice.
- Tempting Fate: Tommy says that he won't catch the gray plague. He does.
- Unnamed Parent: Chongo's mother is not named.
- You Keep Using That Word: Tommy uses "nappy" to mean nap, when really it means diaper.
- You Won't Feel a Thing: One of the nurses says this line before sedating Phil and Lil. Later, Kimi repeats it, then Bobby Walker.