Popular Ramayana story describes Rama touching Ahalya, in stone form, and rescuing her.
But in Mahabharata, the story is completely different. Gautama asks his son to kill his wife and goes away. His son, Chirakarin, thinks long and delays killing. When Gautama realises the she should not be killed, he repents. Gautama even says that he received Indra and expected him to be good friend:
The lord of the three worlds, viz., Purandara, came to my retreat, in the guise of a Brahmana asking for hospitality. He was received by me with (proper) words, and honoured with a (proper) welcome, and presented in due form with water to wash his feet and the usual offerings of the Arghya. I also granted him the rest he had asked for. I further told him that I had obtained a protector in him. I thought that such conduct on my part would induce him to behave towards me as a friend. When, however, notwithstanding all this, he misbehaved himself, my wife Ahalya could not be regarded to have committed any fault.
If Mahabharata story to be believed, Ahalya did not become stone. Then where does Rama rescuing get comes? Are there any other references to where this story is described? Or, could there be a link/explanation/interpretation between Ramayana and Mahabharata stories?